Stockmanship and the human-animal relationship

The stockperson is paramount for securing the welfare of animals. His or her attitudes, actions and priorities are interconnected and have a direct influence on the quality of life of animals.

The major factor influencing the human-animal relationship (HAR) on-farm is the nature of the daily interactions between the stockperson and the animal. On a higher level, societal factors such as animal ethics and the level of animal protection in legislation are interrelated with HAR.

The HAR can be measured by investigating the stockperson (e.g. attitude and behaviour) or the animal (e.g. avoidance test, handling tests or physiological measures). A novel way of investigating the HAR is through Qualitative Behaviour Assessment (QBA). QBA is an integrated assessment of the whole animal where the animal’s body language is evaluated. The method is not concerned with what the animal is doing, but rather how the behaviour is carried out. Our research showed that stockpeople who were patient and calm and petted their animals, had calves who showed more positive mood, indicating a higher level of animal welfare compared to the calves of impatient and aggressive stockpeople.